Do wine books have a future?

With all the attention on the internet and social media, it would be easy to assume that there is no future for wine books.

But I love books. I love reading. I won’t make the mistake of assuming that everyone out there is like me, but I feel (and hope) that there are many others out there who find staring at a screen too much like work, and reading a book quite relaxing. And that this means there is a future for good books.

I also think that different media are good for different kinds of communication. Blogs are great for 250 word posts. Magazine articles work well for 2000 word articles. But for more involved, complex ideas, only a book will do.

I hope that the recent rash of good wine books is evidence that this communication tool has life in it yet. Alice Feiring’s book on natural wine, Katherine Cole’s book on biodynamics, John Gladstones’ academic tome on terroir, and Sam and my book on authentic wine. And in the pipeline is the magnus opus on grape varieties from Jancis and Julia, plus Neal’s doorstop tome on Pomerol.

The future is bright: the future is bookish!

16 comments to Do wine books have a future?

  • Couldn’t agree more! There is something about sitting down with a hardback wine book, without the glare of a computer screen or a flimsy magazine in your hands, and absorbing the information and opinion within its pages.

  • Books have special qualities; they are tactile and evoke the senses. And, in this respect you might want to make reference to my sexy wine hardback “Cleanskin”?
    The book’s site is http://www.cleanskin.nu

  • Alex Lake

    Yes. Of course many of these books are available on Kindle or other eBook formats…

  • glenn

    In south africa we have unfortunately just lost the best wine magazine in publication. The magazine was simply called “wine” and has been around since 1993 I think. It was a great magazine full of interesting articles on wine, winemakers, restaurants, towns to visit and other interested wine related stuff. It’s the only wine magazine I can think of in SA. Due to lack of subscribers and readers of the hardcopy format they’ve now stopped printing it and September is the last edition. Not sure if they are going to have the same thing online but I really enjoyed receiving and reading my magazine every month. Going to miss it.

  • Samuel

    Of course books have a future, I am off to Cognac for ten days on Thursday, and will be putting my feet up and reading from a book not a screen.
    I was hoping to find something authentic and wine related to read but unfortunately I can’t seem to find anything until after the 1st September.

  • Absolutely books have a future,you cannot beat it glass of wine in one hand….book in the other marvellous!!

  • I love your new book, Authentic Wine. It certainly has a future.

    But more generally I think that books are evolving and, while we will always have books, they won’t always enjoy the same central position. Think about how music has changed, for example, and how the central role of the “album” of tunes has changed.

  • Lee Newby

    Your book is available in Canada in hardcover my preference and ebook through chapters.indigo.ca, cheaper to me in hardcover, besides I don’t use an ereader. Great book by the way, it is such a rational presentation of the truth is in the wine.

  • Darren Syzling

    Some random thoughts:

    May be books such as Gambero Rosso’s Italian wines will evolve into an online subscription model – pay per year and be able to browse catalogue descriptions of growers etc. You really need a richer interface however to make this more engaging – paged tables of data just won’t cut it. Make this available on tablets and phones and you have a useful resource whilst travelling. The information can be constantly updated and save the printing/distribution costs. Potentially this is all about presentation style to make this more palatable for consumers.

    I agree books will evolve and we’re at the cusp of what’s possible on the ipad/tablet devices. Currently we’re mimicking the paper form – we need to embrace richer content, introduce audio/video/interviews to provide a richer content medium – where the source material suits (and I stress that last point). Wine books on regions could use this to great effect allowing people to explore regions, growers, wines and search from different perspectives allowing greater access to content. Weaving offline and online content could provide a much more integrated experience with other services.

    I don’t think books such as ‘Reading between the wines’ will die – I’ve decided to read this on the kindle just for convenience but some books I still prefer paper form.

    Blogs are no substitute for book; books immerse you in a subject and good chapter structures allow assimilation and exploration of new subject areas for the reader. Blogs just don’t do this in my experience.

    The point is well made about music distribution – although I don’t agree necessarily for the better – I’m still the kind of person that likes music quality over the digital compressed mess – and like to actively listen to an album rather than as background music. May be that’s why I also find an affinity with enjoying and focusing on a wine’s qualities.

  • Certainly as a photographer who has worked on several wine books, I would say they are not in perfect health, but have some life still.
    In Chile (where I live and work), each year I get asked to quote for around 10 new books on Chilean wine. One may actually happen. There is certainly no money in them for a photographer. A large portion of my sales go to web use, and that is increasing.
    It’s a shame as for a photographers ego, images in book print are a good boost

  • The web has surely replaced the “guide” format, which became impossible as a book as wine itself proliferated. If you want short, sharp factual information on a wine or winery, the web has surely replaced the caption-length coverage most guidebooks provided.

    But this has opened the market up for wine writers, as opposed to wine informants. As we have become more knowledgeable about the basics of wine, so we have become thirsty to read something richer, broader and more entertaining. Surely there is where the potential for wine books lies?

    (We’re open to any offers from publishers ourselves…)

  • keith prothero

    Sorry Glenn, but I thought Wine magazine was very average.Put it this way,my missus enjoyed reading it more than I did,because of all the gossip and food recipes.

    Enjoy however serious wine books, and am especially looking forward to reading Neal Martin,s book on Pomerol,mainly because I love the way he writes.

  • Hi Jamie. Pity most so-called wine publishers don’t seem to agree with you, who are only interested in playing safe with a narrow little group of certain authors and titles (and I can understand why, commercially speaking). That’s why I’m going to self-publish a wine travel e-book – followed by a print on demand version probably as I agree about the good old-fashioned comfort factor of a “proper” book – on the Roussillon, which could be the first in mini-series with the Languedoc to follow. Anyway, enough of the plug and good luck with the new book with Sam! Look forward to seeing it.
    Cheers
    Richard

    Richard M James
    WineWriting.com & winewriting.blogspot.com
    Roussillon & Languedoc: “wine, food, people, places…”
    WineTravelGuides.com
    RED: buy the e-novel

  • scott stevens

    I hope they have a future – but I admit I buy books (wine or otherwise) at a discount. I recently bought Champagne in the World of Fine Wine Series – £20 RRP, I paid £7.29. At this price, and the handy size of the book, it is not only interesting but as easy to read as a kindle etc. At £20 though, such purchases mount up – as do mag subscriptions. I don’t for example subscribe to WOFW, but read my boss’s copy (here in BSE, Suffolk) as he subscribes, and it’s a tax-deductible expense. Web does have the advantage of being updated easier – Clive Coates’ book reviewing Bordeaux, say, is good, but already there’s about 7 vintages appeared since its publication.

  • Mark T

    I don’t want to peer at a Kindle when I need my wine porn fix at breakfast time.

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